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Daily News – 27.07.2012

EXME 12 / 27.07

Midday Express of 2012-07-27

News from the European Commission's Midday Briefing

Nouvelles du rendez-vous de midi de la Commission européenne

Spring 2012 Standard Eurobarometer: Public support for Europe 2020 Strategy remains strong

Europeans broadly support the initiatives for growth, stability and jobs put forward by the EU, according to the Spring 2012 Eurobarometer, the bi-annual opinion poll organised by the European Commission. As we move into the second half of the year, where – after the "European Semester" – the onus is now on Member States to act, modernising labour markets to create jobs and helping the poor and socially excluded are seen as the most important priorities by public opinion in the EU. The latest poll also shows Europeans say the headline targets agreed by the EU – such as ensuring three quarters of working age people have jobs – are at the right level of ambition (see Annex). People’s views on the Europe 2020 strategy – which is the EU's growth strategy – are encouraging, particularly in relation to the importance of the initiatives and the level of ambition. Overall, 40% of Europeans (+2 percentage points) take the view that the EU is heading in the right direction to emerge from the crisis and face new global challenges.

EU High Representative/Vice President Catherine Ashton appoints new European External Action Service Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia

Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission, announced today the appointment of Luis Felipe Fernández de la Peña as the new Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia in the European External Action Service (EEAS).

State aid: Commission temporarily approves aid to Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and National Bank of Greece; opens in-depth investigations

The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU state aid rules, a bridge recapitalisation provided by the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) in favour of Alpha Bank, EFG Eurobank, Piraeus Bank and National Bank of Greece, for reasons of financial stability. At the same time, the Commission has opened four in-depth investigations to examine whether the measure is in line with its rules on state aid for banks during the crisis. The opening of an in-depth investigation is common for large amounts of state aid granted through atypical instruments. It gives interested third parties an occasion to submit comments on the measures and increases legal certainty for the beneficiaries. It does not prejudge in any way the outcome of the investigation.

State aid: Commission temporarily approves aid for Greek Nea Proton Bank and opens in-depth investigation

The European Commission has temporarily approved, under EU state aid rules, €1.7 billion of public support granted in the context of the resolution of Proton Bank. The Commission has temporarily approved the measure until it reaches a final decision on the restructuring plan of Nea Proton Bank, the new legal entity created by the operation. At the same time, the Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the measure is in line with EU state aid rules. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties the possibility to submit comments on the measures. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

State aid: Commission approves prolongation of the Lithuanian bank support scheme

The European Commission has authorised, under EU state aid rules, a prolongation of a Lithuanian aid scheme for banks until 31 December 2012. The scheme covers guarantees, asset relief and recapitalisation measures in favour of banks operating in Lithuania. All conditions of the original scheme, as last amended on 6 March 2012, remain unchanged. The Commission found the prolongation of the measures, initially approved on 5 August 2010 (see IP/10/1032) and prolonged on 21 January 2011, 27 June 2011 and 6 March 2012 (see MEX/11/0121 , MEX/11/0627 and MEX/12/06.03) to be in line with its guidance on state aid to banks during the crisis (see IP/08/1495 , IP/08/1901 , IP/09/322 , IP/10/1636 and IP/11/1488). In particular, the extended measures are well targeted, proportionate and limited in time and scope. The Commission has therefore concluded that they represent an appropriate means of remedying a serious disturbance in the Lithuanian economy and as such are compatible with Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

European Enterprise Promotion Awards: entries up for 2012

Over 400 projects competed in this year's national competitions for a chance to enter the European Enterprise Promotion Awards . They competed to be selected as examples of the best initiatives to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship and showcase best entrepreneurship policies, in order to create a greater awareness of the role entrepreneurs play in society and encourage and inspire potential entrepreneurs. The Enterprise Promotion Awards underline that public authorities can do a lot to improve the business conditions for SMEs. These concrete success stories need to be multiplied to make Europe more business-oriented and business-friendly. The 57 national competition winners will now go forward to the pan-European Awards, whose jury will begin reviewing the entries before releasing in September a shortlist of the top 12 entrants to go forward to the final competition. The ultimate winners will be announced at the European Enterprise Promotion Awards ceremony in November, which this year will take place during the first ever SME Assembly in Cyprus. The number of entries was slightly higher than in 2011, despite the challenging economic environment. It was also only the second time in the history of the awards that all 27 EU Member States have participated.

Employment: Commission proposes €2.7 million from Globalisation Fund to help former Talk Talk workers in Ireland

The European Commission has today proposed to provide Ireland with €2.7 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 592 workers made redundant by Talk Talk Broadband Services and three of their suppliers with their re-integration into the labour market. The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for their approval.

New protocol to the EU-Mauritania Fisheries Partnership Agreement initialled in Nouakchott (Mauritania)

The European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, initialled on 26 July a 2-year Fisheries Partnership Protocol (FPA) between the EU and Mauritania. The total cost for the EU budget on an annual basis amounts to 70 million euros, and offers fishing opportunities for demersal, including shrimps, tuna and pelagic fisheries. Furthermore, there will be a very substantial increase of shipowners' fees, in line with the principles of the CFP Reform. This new protocol ensures sustainability and the catching of the available surplus in all these fisheries, and is fully based on best scientific advice. This new protocol provides for its termination in case of under-utilization of fishing opportunities. A human rights clause has been included, as well as the de-coupling of the sectoral support from access fees. Furthermore , this new protocol provides for increased job opportunities for Mauritanian seamen. Lastly, there will be a special contribution in kind by the EU fishing fleet to meet nutritional needs of the local population. Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: "After a very long negotiation process, we have a deal. This deal is sustainable, ethical and good value for money. We have secured a legal framework which will allow EU fishing activities to continue in Mauritanian waters." The Protocol has been initialled on 26 July 2012, before the expiry of the current Protocol on the 31st of July 2012. As from 1 August and for a duration of 6 months, pending the provisional application of the new Protocol by the Council (envisaged before end of 2012) and the consent of the European Parliament, the Commission will transmit to Mauritania any fishing applications that it will receive from Member states. Mauritania will grant transitional licences based on these requests. This procedure prevents any interruption of fishing activities as from 1 August 2012.


Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of aviation equipment company Goodrich by rival United Technologies, subject to conditions

Following an in-depth investigation (see IP/12/308) the European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Goodrich Corporation by United Technologies Corporation (UTC), both US-based companies active in the production and sale of aviation equipment on a worldwide basis. The approval is conditional upon the divestment of Goodrich's businesses in electrical power generation (AC) and in engine controls for small engines. It is also subject to Rolls Royce being granted an option to acquire Goodrich's lean burn fuel nozzle R&D project.

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